Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Movie Mom™


New in Theaters
  New to DVD

Fading Gigolo
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Date:
December 25, 2013

Transcendence
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

Ride Along
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language,
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

Bears
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
G
Release Date:
April 19, 2014

 

The Nut Job
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor
Release Date:
January 17, 2014

The Rules of Attraction

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

In 1985, Brett Easton Ellis’ first book “Less than Zero”, introduced a new voice to the “party at the end of civilization” genre – those texts dealing with a corrupted society’s last orgy before collapse (for example, works from 1930’s Berlin and the Fall of Rome). The book, heavily influenced by Joan Didion, was a cocaine powered paean to ‘80‘s excess, materialism and greed. The characters were rich and bored, drowning in the very vices they used to escape the everyday.

His second book, “Rules of Attraction” (1988), picks up the party at fictional Camden College (rumored to be based on Ellis’ alma mater, Bennington College) where the young, wealthy and white escape reality – or not—on a lifeboat of sex, alcohol and drugs. The story, adapted to the screen by director Roger Avary, who co-wrote Pulp Fiction, alternates perspectives and time lines while focusing on several, colorfully named parties (e.g. “End of the World Party”) on Camden’s campus.

The “attraction” of the title is a bit of a misnomer. If love has many forms, one of which does not require any great knowledge of a person, something beyond attraction and more like obsession, then this movie is about love. Instead of a love triangle, Rules of Attraction jumps perspectives on a love line: bi and beautiful Paul Denton (Ian Somerhalder) loves self-described “emotional vampire” and part-time drug dealer Sean Bateman (James Van Der Beek), who in turn loves the doe-eyed and virginal Lauren Hynde (Shannyn Sossamon) who loves self-absorbed Victor (Kip Pardue). To stir up the party, it is Lara (Jessica Biel), Lauren’s roommate, who Sean sleeps with as a proxy, while Paul has a nostalgic fling with long-time friend Richard “Dick” Jared (a scene- stealing, Russell Sams). Notable cameos include Eric Stoltz (as student seducer, Professor Lance Lawson); Faye Dunaway as Paul’s tipsy mother; and a cocaine-dusted Clifton Collins, Jr. as unpredictable drug dealer Rupert.

If this strange face of love can be compared to the vast quantities of narcotics casually consumed by the students, then it is the strongest drug of all. While the students can shrug off the effects of getting beaten with a baseball bat, casual sex with a sports team, cocaine/heroin and whiskey drunk as if it really was the water of life, they cannot escape the heartache when each of their budding hopes of love are crushed. Most poignant is the author of Sean’s anonymous love letters who takes her own life when she sees his indiscriminate philandering.

Ellis’ books have all dealt with similar 1980’s themes from different perspectives and have woven in references to characters from his other works. For example, “Rules of Attraction” protagonist, Sean Bateman, is younger brother to “American Psycho”, Patrick Bateman. Roger Avary has done a good job at adapting this multi-perspective narrative into a slick, visually dynamic movie. His backward-forward filming and present- past-present timing gradually reveal the story but he cannot put content into what is, in the end, an empty tale.

Although the movie is set in the present day, the strong influence of the book and Avary’s decision to weave in references to Ellis’ other books keeps a ‘80’s zeitgeist. The book “Rules of Attraction” already felt dated upon its release and the movie feels all the more so – the times having changed so dramatically over the years: the end of the Cold War; the flannel-clad nihilism descending from the Seattle scene; the disappearance of the rich, white boy as the movie bad guy; the return of heroin. But perhaps, most importantly, the world did not end.

Parents should know that this movie contains many elements that they would not want their children to see. The first scene alone of a horribly demeaning date-rape is followed by a non-stop montage designed to shock the most jaded of college party kids, let alone their parents. Sex is pervasive, casual and often described in excruciating detail. Drugs are ubiquitous and feature no downsides beyond the occasional bloody nose or fight with a dealer. Alcohol is more prevalent than soda. The bathtub suicide of one of the minor characters is so devoid of emotion that the laying out of the razor blade is as casual as removing one’s rings.

Families who see this movie should talk about why some people rely upon drugs as a crutch and be sure to discuss the film’s bleak portrayal of adult drug use as well as that of the college kids. Other issues to be discussed include the connection or lack of connection between the characters and the consequences of the choices we make.

Other films about end of the world parties include “Blue Angel” (Marlene Dietrich’s 1930’s breakthrough film) and “Cabaret” (the 1972 musical starring Liza Minelli). Those who are interested in movies playing with time and perspective shifts should rent “Go” (1999), a younger, softer styled “Pulp Fiction” (1994).

The Ring

posted by rkumar
C+
Lowest Recommended Age:Mature High Schooler
Movie Release Date:2002

A true connoisseur of the scary movie (note, not slasher flicks but psychological thrillers) will recognize certain spooky elements in many of the “classics” of the genre: the cruel parent (or stepparent); the otherworldly child, a medium for the spirit world; and, the violent reaction of animals, children and the insane to the presence of evil. Certain images are also commonly found in these movies and are preternaturally disturbing: wells, bleak cliffs, lighthouses, remote cabins in the woods, lone autumnal trees on hillsides, rainy nights, and other symbols of isolation.

Renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell, argued that certain tales and images are part of our universal consciousness and, therefore, part of collective human storytelling. Heavily influenced by Carl Jung, Campbell described how these themes reoccur throughout the tapestry of stories told by groups divided by time and geography. Perhaps then there should be no surprise that certain images reappear with such alarming effectiveness in scary movies whether the source is Hollywood, or in this case, Japan.

Based on “Ringu”, a series of books by Kôji Suzuki (the “Stephen King of Japan”), Hideo Nakata directed the original, record-breaking box office smash for Asian audiences (1998), which DreamWorks decided would translate well for American audiences. Gore Verbinski was chosen to direct even though he is best known for more light-hearted fare such as “Mouse Hunt” and “The Mexican.”

The premise is fairly simple. Urban legend meets scary movie reality when four teens die, as predicted, exactly seven days to the minute from when they watched an unmarked video in a remote mountain cabin. The aunt of one of the teenagers is a savvy and skeptical journalist whose curiosity is sparked by tales of the tape. After finding and watching the source of the mystery, she receives a phone call announcing that she has seven days. From there, it is a race to solve the clues and answer the riddle of the video, with the stakes greatly raised when two of the people closest to her, including her young son, watch the deadly tape.

The video itself is a mosaic of images both familiar and disturbing. With its mirrors, wriggly things, ladders, and -–of course—- rings, you might think you were watching “Un Chien Andalou” (Luis Buñel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 surrealist classic) as directed by David Lynch after he had been reading Jung and not getting enough fresh air.

As one born to the genre, Director Verbinski does an excellent job of letting our imaginations find portent and peril in the most mundane of actions, such as picking up groceries at the local corner store. Naomi Watts, a relatively unknown actress for those who missed her in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (2001), plays Rachel, the journalist whose desire to find the cause of her niece’s death becomes a life or death quest for answers. For all of us who have rolled our eyes at the screaming teen, walking backward alone through the dark house, Watts will be a relief as she plays through the gamut of Rachel’s emotions with truly credible, but not overwrought, gusto. While the adults are busy solving the riddle of the tape, the heart-stopping dyad of the Ring’s children usher in the deeper dimension of fear. Rachel’s son, Aiden (a stony-eyed David Dorfman) is the medium and interpreter for the terrifying Samara (Daveigh Chase), who lays at the heart of the mystery.

“The Ring” dips deep in the well of those aforementioned familiar scary images, which paradoxically results in a movie that is both architecturally firm but –with little new to add—empty of true revelation. Joseph Campbell could have used this movie as a reference book for universally terrifying images, but perhaps the tale itself was more effectively told in Japanese.

Parents should know that this movie is very, very scary. Four people and a horse die on-screen, with the potential for many more untimely demises throughout and -–don’t read on if you enjoy surprises-—beyond the end of the movie. The overall tone is creepy and would leave many of the staunchest of movie-goers in dire need of brightly lit rooms and laughter.

Families who see this movie should talk about the decision that Rachel makes at the end of the movie and the ramifications of her actions. They might also wish to discuss the way that different characters deal with the untimely death of a loved one.

Families who enjoy this movie might wish to shiver together over “The Shining”, “The Omen”, “The Exorcist”, “Poltergeist” or “The Sixth Sense”. Alternately, they might wish to never watch a video again (especially an unmarked one) and opt to have a Scrabble night instead, preferably after turning on all the lights in the house.

The Princess Bride

posted by rkumar
A+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:1987

This witty modern fairy tale by William Goldman (screenwriter of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”) is resoundingly satisfying. The most beautiful woman in the world (Robin Wright) is engaged to the cruel Prince (Chris Sarandon) but kidnapped by a huge man with enormous strength (Andre the Giant), a master swordsman (Mandy Patinkin), and an evil genius (Wallace Shawn), until she is rescued by a mysterious masked man who must defeat them all, and then escape with her through the treacherous Fire Swamp. But then she is captured again by the Prince, until honor, courage, and true love prevail.

The book by Goldman is even better, and lots of fun to read aloud, though I admit that when I read it to my children I skipped his asides, which are better appreciated by adults.

The Powerpuff Girls Movie

posted by rkumar
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
Movie Release Date:2002

The Powerpuff Girls’ first feature-length movie may be a treat for the fans of the show, but its non-stop excitement and sense of humor is going to win over just about anyone. Move over Pokemon, there are some new rulers of the animated action scene.

The big city of Townsville is overrun by crime, and the lonely but always good-hearted Professor Utonium decides to make some daughters out of sugar, spice, and everything nice. But his troublesome lab monkey Jojo knocks some mysterious “chemical X” into the concoction and the girls come out having seemingly endless superpowers, in addition to being the nicest girls he could ask for. He names them Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup, and they all have different, distinct personalities.

They show their sugar and their spice — and their superpowers on their first day of school when a game of tag goes terribly wrong and destroys much of the town. The people of Townsville are furious at the girls, who are ashamed and outcast. When Jojo tells them he has a plan to save the town, they agree to help. But they are deceived. It turns out his plan is to take over earth with oppressed apes, with Jojo becoming Mojo Jojo, king of the planet of the apes. At first chaos ensues and it looks like Mojo Jojo will in fact reign, but the girls use their powers to take on the apes in a spectacular battle to save the city and finally prove to the people that they’re actually good girls.

The Powerpuff Girls are more fun than many recent films and most of today’s animated superheroes. It was funny, exciting, and involving. Mojo Jojo is voiced by Roger L. Jackson, the phone voice of the killer in all three Scream movies, and the apes are the most colorful animated villains since Yellow Submarine and the most fearsome gang of monkeys since The Wizard of Oz. And of course, the older audience is targeted in some of the jokes as well, including two characters who talk in Van Halen lyrics and references to the original Planet of the Apes.

Parents should know that this film has lots of destructive cartoon violence, as well as some brief bathroom humor.

Families who see this film should talk about what they would do if they had superpowers — or if they could make up their own animated characters.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy The Powerpuff Girls DVD Powerpack and The Powerpuff Girls Meet the Beat-alls, in which the entire dialogue is taken from Beatles songs.

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